A Letter to My Son, Chris

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My friend Robi Paul Richard

Recently, you told me about a new lady who joined your laboratory and how, being from India, she is familiar with the works of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. This triggered a memory in me, a recollection in connection with my best childhood friend, Robi Paul Richard.

My mother befriended Robi’s grandparents, Fritz and Frida Richard, when they were actors performing in the play “Jedermann” by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in the annual Salzburg Festival and bought a house in the neighbourhood. It must have been after the war, probably in 1946, that I visited them with my mother, but years before, the Richards were affiliated with a theater in Berlin with the director Max Reinhardt. In the late 1920s, Reinhardt staged a production of Tagore’s “The Post Office”, in which Trude Richard, the youngest daughter, played a leading role. Tagore himself came to see his play.02

I must imagine that in the magical aura of the play itself, and with the allure of the exotic Tagore and his entourage of Indian men, Trude became enchanted and, hence, romantically involved. In 1927, she gave birth to an obviously Indian boy. One of Tagore’s traveling companions came forward to claim responsibility for siring the boy, and Tagore (then aged 65) agreed to be the boy’s godfather. As you have probably guessed, the boy was named Robi Richard.

It occurred to me only today that Tagore’s name in the Bengali pronunciation is “Robindronat”. Perhaps, as a child, he was also given the affectionate diminutive of “Robi”! Hmmm.

When Robi Richard immigrated to the USA, he changed his Hindu name to “Paul”. Nevertheless, when he arrived in the States, he was listed on the roster as “coloured”. Trude, who could not live without her son, followed him to New York within the year. Then Robi, along with an old classmate from Vienna, Ivan Illich, enticed me to come to America, as well. Because it would have meant a wait of seven years for me to obtain a US immigration visa, my friends suggested that I make the passage to Canada instead. I agreed, and after pawning his valuable microscope, Robi advanced the necessary funds for me to do so and I arrived in Montreal with you and your mother in 1953.

Years later, Robi suffered a brain tumor and passed away. His mother, Trude, had already been cremated for some time. Robi’s wife called me to come to New York to collect Trude’s ashes, (along with the ashes of her cat), saying that the alternative was for them to be flushed down the toilet. Your mother and I drove down, picked up the ashes, then years later deposited them, according to Trude’s wishes, in her parents’ grave in the cemetery in Aigen, a suburb of Salzburg. You, Chris, faced a similar task with your mother’s ashes, and will face it again when my time comes.

There are so many examples I can think of in my life that prove to me that all is a matter of destiny. Nothing happens naturally or by chance. Everything that happens, happens through some guiding, spiritual cause and effect. I would now advise anyone to become mindful of the spiritual intervention around us and treat it with reverence, as I have learned to do. Particularly, I have come to learn that women have been undervalued, have not been recognized as the most vital part of humanity, and it will only be through them that an advancement to a universal peace will be possible, an advancement which male dominance has failed to achieve since time immemorial.

Your Dad

Rabindranath-Tagore-thoughts

My First Award, A Real Neat Blog Award

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I received an award from Dear Kitty. Some Blog. Thank you so very much. Dear Kitty. Some Blog is an excellent blog that I enjoy reading.

The ‘rules’ of the Real Neat Blog Award are:

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

Now to answers the questions: These will be the same questions I pose to my nominees.

1. Where do most visits to your blog come from?
Ans: I seem to have a very interesting cross-section of visitors. As my blog is across between; family and historical stories, political commentary and women’s rights and issues. I am happy to meet all of them.

2. What is your favourite sport?
Ans: Golf. I enjoy the masochistic feelings of every bad shot, knowing that I will never get better. Yet today I sank an impossible putt, reminiscent of Tiger Woods on the 17th at Sawgrass while the announcer bellows, “Better than most!” Which confirms that I shall be back to play another day.

3. What has been a special moment for you in 2015 so far?
Ans: It was not a good moment, so I won’t elaborate.

4. What is your favourite quote?
Ans: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!”
— Carl Sagan, Astronomer

5. What was your favourite class when still at school?
Ans: Painting & Graphic arts, so how I ended up doing a PhD in Philosophy I have no idea.

6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier?
Ans: The ability to write fiction.

7. What musical instrument have you tried to play?
Ans: None. For some reason, I was never interested.

Now for my nominees: (if you don’t accept awards, do not feel obliged to act on this)

Cats At The Bar
Back Home in Bromont
Blog of a Mad Black Woman
Meandering of Misha
In My Not So Humble Opinion
Weggieboy’s Blog
Hello World
Misunderstood
A Girl Named Wanda
There are so many more blogs that I enjoy, for those not on the list, know that you are just as worthy as the ones listed.

Musings Inspired by my Journey to Vienna Part 4

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The most vivid memories that my trip to Vienna stirred were, of course, of my last days there, after I got married in the Fall of 1949. I had been anxious to be married before my final exams because I did not believe that I could pass them all unless my sweetheart was with me, and we wanted to have our marriage confirmed in a Catholic church in Vienna because my Protestant family had been opposed to my sudden engagement. We were more amicably received by our Viennese relatives. Geraldine and I were married in St. Mary’s Church in December. And, my aunt Liesl made the arrangements for a proper reception, at which we were to have a surprise guest, someone I had never before met. Aunt Liesl had gone to some trouble to find his address and send him a written invitation.

St. Mary's church, Vienna, The statue of Joseph Hayden in the foreground

St. Mary’s church, Vienna, The statue of Joseph Hayden in the foreground

My mother’s youngest brother, Teddy Jauner, had been one of the opposing party in the estate battle after Grandma Jauner’s death in 1923. My father had been furious over my uncle’s role in the affair, and we were forbidden from mentioning his name in our household. After almost three decades, my mother was longing to let bygones be bygones, but she did not dare suggest this to our father. When I went to Vienna to study, she took me aside in confidence and asked if I would try to find out how Teddy is doing and, if possible, arrange to meet him to pass on his sister’s greetings, to tell him that she wishes him well.

Geraldine and I did not meet Uncle Teddy until we were assembled in the sacristy of the church to sign our marriage papers. He had slipped into the church unnoticed to witness the wedding ceremony, then snuck into the sacristy to meet us and to kiss the bride. He wished us well and told me that finally, after 25 years, he had called my mother in Salzburg and had a pleasant talk with her. Before my aunt Liesl could invite him to the dinner party that she had arranged for all the wedding guests, however, he had vanished.

I am happy to say that we did have the opportunity to meet him again, though. He invited us to have lunch with him in his small apartment, where we could have a heart-to-heat talk. We learned about his life and his work. He had written a self-published biography of Franz Ritter von Jauner, the famous theatre director and his own uncle, and was now living life in general isolation. He also described the tragic misunderstandings that had occurred upon the death of my grandmother.

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Franz Ritter von Jauner

Times were very hard after World War I. The depression and mounting inflation gave rise to a sect of greedy, artful lawyers and government agents who preyed on the ignorance of the relatives of those who had been lost, robbing them of their inheritance. A few years earlier, Uncle Teddy had received a pittance from the estate, then a letter from the two sisters of his lawyer who had passed away. The sisters were packing up their brother’s office and had found a heavy box marked ‘Jauner’. When Uncle Teddy brought the box home and opened it, he found it was packed with stock certificates that had been issued to his mother. The companies in question had flourished during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, but now their stock was, as he said, “worth as much as wallpaper”.

Aktie_der_Eisenbahn_Wien-Aspang_1886

Aktie_der_Eisenbahn_Wien-Aspang_1886

 

Geraldine and I met with Uncle Teddy a few more times and I was able to put him in touch with my brother, Benvenuto, when he moved to Vienna as well. At least he then had something of a semblance to family. Unfortunately, he and my mother never had the opportunity to meet, ever again, in person.

Yes, Vienna is still very much on my mind and will continue to be as I complete the English translation of Uncle Teddy’s manuscript, Franz Ritter von Jauner: The King of the Operetta. I am very happy that I had the chance to become reconnected with my brother’s children in the most pleasant way. I hope that, one day, they will come to visit me in Canada.

And now 60 years later, the Eastern Townships, where I live, does not seem so different.

The Eastern Townships of Quebec, where I have now lived for 60 years, does not seem so different from home.

Photo source, google images

Musings Inspired by my Journey to Vienna – Part 1

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source google images Vienna

My trip to Europe this year was well-planned, but my getting sick during the flight to Berlin muddled my schedule. Five days in a Berlin hospital with a contagious intestinal viral infection forced me to cancel an outing to the Rhineland area of Germany, and the planned stops on the way in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart. I regretted missing visits with certain elderly relatives and friends, but I could not risk infecting them.

The day I was to be released from hospital, I had my son Christopher, my travel escort, book a direct flight to Vienna to make up for lost time. I wished to visit my late brother’s first daughter Charlotte and her daughter Alexandra, whom I had never met, but was eager to see for the first time. She’d struck me as being a very perceptive person for I had been deeply moved by the lovely condolence letter she had sent me upon the death of my Geraldine, the grandmother she would never meet, at least, not in this lifetime.

Vienna

Vienna

Vienna was the place of my birth, and after World War II I studied there, graduating with my first Ph.D. I was also married there; the Catholic ceremony was performed shortly after my graduation in December 1949. Vienna was, at that time, an old and tired, foreign-occupied city with a war-weary population, but it has changed greatly and has regained its splendour from imperial times.

Vienna is intricately woven in my personal history with Salzburg, where my parents established their residence after World War I. My mother had inherited, or to be more specific, became the custodian of two villas which her mother had owned and had bequeathed to her grandchildren. My grandmother’s three sons had not sired any children, so her only daughter’s, my mother’s, children would inherit the properties.

Salzburg Austria

Salzburg Austria

My future mother-in-law also lived in Salzburg, where she became a close friend and confidante of my mother’s. At that time, she was married to a dentist, Vokalek, with whom she shared a villa with extensive grounds in the neighbouring suburb of Parsch. As a clairvoyant, she was a much sought-after socialite, and was visited by many admirers, included among them such as Dr. Albert Schweitzer and other members of the theosophical society.

 

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She was instrumental as an advisor to my mother, who considered aborting her sixth pregnancy as she was then in a troubled marriage. Also pregnant then, her friend counselled her against undergoing such a risky procedure at her age. They were both in their early thirties and could still look forward to leading productive lives. Were it not for this advice, I would not be writing this today.

To be con’t.

My Journey’s Special Delight (part 1)

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Vienna Skyline by the Danube

My European trip this year was well planned, but, what was not planned was getting sick on my flight to Berlin, which scuttled my schedule. Three days in a Berlin hospital with a contagious intestinal virus, made me cancel a journey to the Rhineland with stops in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart. A visit to elderly relatives and friends, I did not want to infect them and had to take a miss with deep regrets.
Once recovered, Christopher (my oldest son) as my travel escort, I had him book a direct flight to Vienna, to make-up for lost time. I wished to visit my late brother’s oldest daughter Charlotte and her daughter Alexandra, who I was eager to meet. She struck me as a perceptual person, for I was deeply moved by her heart-felt condolence letter that she wrote me upon the death of my Geraldine, the grandmother she never met.

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University of Vienna, my Alma Mater

Vienna was the place of my birth, and after the World War II, I studied there and graduated with my first Ph.D. I got married right after my graduation in December 1949. It was during a time when an old and tired foreign occupied city, with a war-weary population that I left Vienna. However, upon my return it has changed and regained much of its splendor of imperial times.
To be continued…

P.S. The photos are sourced through Google images. The photos we took are not as good.

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The Vienna Opera House